Yawalapití - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Yawalapití are primarily fishers who practice slash-and-burn agriculture to produce bitter manioc. Their diet is occasionally supplemented with meat (monkeys, birds) and with wild foods collected from the forest—pineapples ( Ananas sativus ), piquí ( Caryocar villosum ), buriti ( Mauritia flexuosa ), grasshoppers, and ants. Some Yawalapití also grow peanuts ( Arachis hypogaea ), peppers ( Capsicum ), and tobacco ( Nicotiana tabacum ). Bananas, sweet potatoes, abóbora ( Cucurbita ), calabashes ( Crescentia ), cotton, limes, gourds ( Lagenaria ), and other products are acquired by traditional exchange with their neighboring kin in Kalapalo, Kamayurá, Waurá, and Mehinaku villages.

Industrial Arts. The Yawalapití are well-known producers of pottery and baskets. They manufacture small baskets to keep fine things using a coil technique; large cylindrical storage ones; big flat ones (mayako) to carry manioc roots using a common plait technique, twilling; and rucksacks and carrying baskets by interweaving two freshly cut palm leaves. They also make mats to rinse manioc flour, fans, fish traps, mostly from buriti material. Men still manufacture bows and arrows, spindles, canoes, paddles, and the like. The raw material for basketry is mainly different parts of buriti-palm leaves. Men like to work with wood; often they carve stools in the form of birds or armadillos. These are made for sale, mostly to pilots of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and FUNAI, and occasionally when the Yawalapití have a chance to visit Brasília. Fibers of buriti leaves are prepared by women, who twist them on their legs to make a thread from which they net hammocks and loin strings. For netting, women use two low posts fixed in the ground. The making of utensils from calabashes is also a woman's task.

Trade. Today, as in the past, the Yawalapití trade with their neighbors in the upper Xingu. They exchange, above all, fruits and products that are not locally available for their products such as piquí fruits, manioc, baskets, hammocks, and men's decorations made of snail shells, which are highly regarded and are very often given as presents. When the Yawalapití occasionally meet Whites who are flown in to their settlement by FUNAI and FAB aircraft or in Brasília, a trade occurs. The Yawalapití sell their basketry, feather decorations, stools, and necklaces, and buy football equipment (shoes, gym pants, T-shirts, etc.), aluminum pots and utensils, radios, tape recorders, and other small items such as scissors, needles, fabric, razor blades, fishhooks, and nylon strings.

Division of Labor. The traditional division of labor by sex is still followed. Men fish and hunt, prepare the field by cutting down and burning the trees, and cultivate tobacco. Women do the rest of the agricultural work, process manioc, take care of the children, and do most of the housework. They also net hammocks, make pottery, and manufacture salt from certain water plants. Together with children, they collect fruits, buriti leaves, brushwood, and fish poisoned with timbó. Honey gathering is men's work. Men occassionally help women during the manioc harvest and carry the roots in baskets to the village. The storage of piquí is a task for men. Piquí fruits are boiled and placed in angular bark-and-palm-leaf containers sealed at both ends and placed in a pool of cool water. Men also build houses (malocas) and manufacture weapons, adornments, basketry, and all woodwork. The fire inside the maloca is looked after by women, but outside, where broiling and roasting are always done, it's a task for men.

Land Tenure. Men are responsible for the field ( roca ) preparations; then the roca is given for use to women. Nevertheless, when talking about a particular roca, the Yawalapití refer to it as the property of a man.

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